Thursday, January 6, 2011

Loyola Launches Wheelchair Yoga to Speed Healing in Patients

MAYWOOD, Ill. -- While making dinner for his daughters one night, James Abram, 59, collapsed on his kitchen floor. He was rushed to Loyola University Medical Center where doctors determined he had suffered a stroke. He later suffered a second stroke and underwent emergency surgery to reduce life-threatening swelling in his brain. The strokes left Abram paralyzed on the left side. But in the seven months since his strokes, he has made remarkable progress. He credits his recovery to the advanced, multidisciplinary treatment and rehabilitation that he received. Abram’s recovery included wheelchair yoga, a new Loyola program for hospitalized patients, said psychologist and certified yoga instructor Susan Walsh, PsyD, who directs the program. “There is a growing body of evidence to support the use of yoga as a health and healing tool and a complement to standard medical interventions and therapy,” said Dr. Walsh, assistant professor, Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Neurosciences, Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. “I have seen firsthand how yoga facilitates recovery, which allows us to better manage the potentially debilitating side effects of various medical conditions.” Like other patients, Abram attended a one-hour yoga class twice a week in a conference room that is transformed into a yoga studio. Lights are dim and electric candles line the room as soft music plays. The class is led through a series of modified yoga, breathing and guided-imagery exercises from their wheelchairs. The goal of the yoga classes is to enhance posture, alignment, coordination, mobility, psychological health and an overall sense of well-being. The exercises also help patients open their chest to increase oxygen flow, which makes movement easier and speeds healing. “This was my first experience with yoga, and I found it to be enjoyable,” Abram said. “Yoga and all of the other therapy has helped me regain control of the left side of my body. I now walk without assistance and have some use of my left hand and arm.”Dr. Walsh, who also practices yoga, plans to measure how her class affects patients’ psychological health. Nearly 30 – 50 percent of inpatient rehabilitation patients develop depression during the first year of their care. Untreated depression can result in excess disability, impaired quality of life, cognitive problems and increased mortality.

“We know that medical conditions can take their toll on the psychological health of our patients,” Dr. Walsh said. “Yoga has the potential to reduce depression and anxiety, which can positively impact a patient’s prognosis.”

Dr. Walsh plans to expand Loyola’s yoga program for patients such as Abram who now receives rehabilitation services in the outpatient setting.

About Loyola University Health System

Loyola University Health System (LUHS) is part of Trinity Health. Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, LUHS is a quaternary care system with a 61-acre main medical center campus, the 36-acre Gottlieb Memorial Hospital campus and more than 30 primary and specialty care facilities in Cook, Will and DuPage counties. Loyola University Medical Center’s campus is conveniently located in Maywood, 13 miles west of Chicago’s Loop and 8 miles east of Oak Brook, Ill. At the heart of the medical center campus is a 559-licensed-bed hospital that houses a Level 1 Trauma Center, a Burn Center and the Ronald McDonald® Children's Hospital of Loyola University Medical Center. Also on campus are the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, Loyola Outpatient Center, Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine and Loyola Oral Health Center as well as Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, Loyola University Chicago Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Fitness. Loyola's Gottlieb campus in Melrose Park includes the 255-licensed-bed community hospital, the Professional Office Building housing 150 private practice clinics, the Adult Day Care, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park.

Trinity Health is a national Catholic health system with an enduring legacy and a steadfast mission to be a transforming and healing presence within the communities we serve. Trinity is committed to being a people-centered health care system that enables better health, better care and lower costs. Trinity Health has 88 hospitals and hundreds of continuing care facilities, home care agencies and outpatient centers in 21 states and 119,000 employees.